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Time for a résumé makeover

Post Date: September 5th, 2014

Susan at Plaza Personnel Service contributes to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune Jobs Special Section …. 

Time for a résumé makeover

In today’s socially savvy world, the paper résumé has gone the way of the company pension. Companies are hiring on Facebook. Job openings are announced on Twitter. Ambitious job hunters are using mobile portfolios, videos and other novel methods that go viral.

At least that’s what seems to be happening. But hiring managers and recruiters still want to see a clean, well-organized résumé. They’ll even accept a cover letter. But make it quick — on average, recruiters spend 6 seconds scanning a résumé, according to a study by, which touts a résumé-rewriting service. Here are other tips from recruiters:

Make sure you’re qualified

It’s too easy to apply for a job today. Recruiters have adapted to the flood of résumés by giving each an even quicker glance, if at all. Qualified candidates are rarely in the majority of applicants. Before applying, read the job description carefully to avoid immediate elimination.

“Job seekers are always going to apply for positions because it’s an odds game. That hasn’t changed over time and hasn’t changed with the economy,” said Connie Chovan, system recruiter with Sharp Healthcare. She’s one of 15 recruiters for the San Diego health care system and estimates she reviews 500 to 700 résumés per month.

“I think the key thing for an individual when applying for a position at any organization is to apply for positions that you’re interested in and feel that you’re qualified for,” Chovan said.

Traditional or trendy?

Unique approaches may go viral. But if the potential job or employer isn’t a trendy tech or creative company, go with what’s reliable.

“Generally speaking, there is not a perfect format,” Chovan said. “Chronologically is still easier to read and preferred by hiring contacts. Cover letters are still a great vehicle to explain yourself or give insight to résumé gaps or connections to your organization.”

At Microsoft, Travis Scott, a staffing consultant, recommends that experienced professionals opt for functional résumés to highlight types of experience first.

“This is a great way to bring to light what you have accomplished,” he said. “Recruiters and hiring managers want to connect the dots to figure out what you’re doing now and the relevance of your experience. Plus, we want to see how you’ve advanced along the way.”

Susan Duva, who specializes in medical staffing for Plaza Personnel Services (, said she prefers bullet points.

“But I think to a degree it depends on the position and type of position,” she said. “I just want to see chronological, easy to read and at a glance, whether I should look at it more closely or not.”

Don’t rely solely on spell-check

A grammatically correct and error-free résumé is a given. But sometimes, as the creator, you won’t see obvious mistakes.

“In my opinion, it should be close to perfect. People depend on spell-check, but they shouldn’t. It doesn’t always catch things,” said Duva, a medical staffing recruiter for the past 25 years. Duva said one little trick to catch mistakes is to read your sentences backward.    “Start on right and go left,” she said.

Keep the cover letter brief

Recruiters get hundreds of applications for each job opening, and most say only a minority are qualified — as little as 10 percent. They often don’t get to the cover letter.

“I can tell you that cover letters don’t get read. If there is something that is very important, it should be in the résumé,” said Duva. “Things get looked at pretty quickly. Résumés need to be concise, efficient. Often times, cover letters don’t get read or they certainly don’t get read before the résumé.”

RaShonda Lind, corporate recruiter at Interactions Marketing, agreed.

“The résumé (is most important) — cover letters are hit or miss,” she said.

Be active and respectful on social networks

Recruiters don’t just sit and wait for people to come to them. They’re on the prowl for good people and passive hires, or people with jobs who aren’t actively looking. Recruiters search niche sites for potential applicants, but they also use the big sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And yes, they Google your name to see what you may not be telling them.

“Social media is a huge success in recruitment,” said Lind, who has recruited for Jack in the Box and MAC cosmetics. Lind uses LinkedIn Recruiter to provide networking events and find potential employees. But, she cautions, “I think a lot of people tend to forget about their photos. A photo can tell a story — it can either brighten or dim your background.”

Chovan added: “Social media is a key source for recruiters. It’s a two-way street. … What I use LinkedIn for is as a source, as a lead referral. I’m networking, too. That’s what social media is all about.”

For the most part, though, recruiters feel job applicants are smarter about their online reputation and have cleaned it up or turned on privacy settings. Just use common sense.

Determine who the decision maker is

Often, the recruiter’s job is to find qualified candidates and pass them to appropriate managers. During the interview process, find out who is the decision maker and who is best suited for follow-ups, Chovan said.

“They (job candidates) spend time and energy on situations that aren’t going to produce the results they want. They think that HR is the decision maker when, in fact, it’s someone else in the organization. They’re operating from a misconception. When a job seeker is interviewing, they need to find out at that time who the decision maker is so they can direct a follow-up and thank-you letter.”

Tamara Chuang is a freelance writer based in Denver.


To see the orginal Union Tribune article